tv FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace FOX December 18, 2011 9:00am-10:00am EST
this week -- a special program on the defining issue of 2012. has uncle sam began too big, too powerful? a bailout bonanza, a welfare state. when america can't afford to fall behind? the rallying cry from the tea party. the mantra of republican candidates everywhere. >> washington doesn't need a new coat of paint. it needs a complete overall. >> at the heart of ronald
reagan's famous declaration. >> the government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem. >> today, abc news and the miller center of the university of virginia, present, "the great american debates." facing off here in washington, the intellectual heavyweights for both parties. from the right, paul ryan and abc's own george will and from the left, congressman barney frank and former clinton labor secretary robert reich. good morning. and welcome to this special edition of the program. today, we delve into the fundamental question that's facing american democracy at this moment. has the federal government become too big? americans have been weary of washington. but this year, that anger seems to be at fever pitch.
with poll after poll showing trust in government is at an all-time low. but is this because it's too bloated or too broken? and what about this conundrum, people who oppose big government still want to collect their entitlements? today we put those issues to the test. it's a debate and the driving theme of the 2012 elections. and abc's john donvan tells us why. >> right now, we have a government so big. >> reporter: you listen to this theme. >> big government. >> big government economic policies. >> reporter: or maybe rant. >> big government, agendas. government. >> reporter: how does this not feel as though we're stuck in a time machine? didn't we hold this debate already? >> government isn't the solution to our problem, government is the problem. >> reporter: and 15 years ago, didn't clinton basically
concede. >> the era of big government is over. >> reporter: didn't thomas jefferson drawing american first partisan battle lines. hamilton had a big plan for a central government. a stretchable constitution. while jefferson wanted to keep power local and limited and no less or no more. well, guess what? hamilton dies in a duel, jefferson becomes president and he starts enlarging things, like america itself. buying land rights from france. and the size of the government, well, they had to keep adding chairs to the president's cabinet from 5 in jefferson's time. it grew to 8 by 1853. 10 by 1980 and then comes the new deal. >> the only thing we have to fear is -- >> reporter: government to the rescue. financial industry slap with new
rules. a good thing to spend in the system. when something's not right. >> should be a law against it. >> reporter: mae west. laws we got. plenty of them and rules and regulations and restrictions and limits and codes and requirements. and agencies and boards and commissions and departments that warn and police, enforce, inspect and aim prove or disapprove. if you needed the federal government to force open the schoolhouse door, if you needed those checks that the government handed out after the gulf oil spill. if you need the parking space that federal law mandates in front of stores, then, well, it's you who wanted it. or maybe not. not when this agency gets into it, because there's a price to be paid for all of this. and maybe we can't really pay it. >> and so, today, we step away
from the din to debate what the american government should do. we're here with a live studio audience in the newseum. with me on this stage, on the right, house budget committee chairman, congressman paul ryan of wisconsin and abc's own george will. on the left, congressman barney frank of massachusetts who just announced that this term in washington will be his list and robert reich, bill clinton's labor secretary. now teaching at the university of california, berkeley. we have a lot of ground to cover. we want you to keep answers quite tight. we kick things off with brief opening statements. first, congressman ryan. >> thank you, christiane. is there too much government in our lives? yes. ask most people and they will agree. it's no coincidence that government spending has hit record levels. while people's trust in
government has hit record lows. the longer answer, why is this, is pretty simple, too much government inevitably leads to bad government. when government grows too much and extends beyond its limits, it usually does things poorly. they put limits on government because they knew the limits of government. the left usually likes to advance what i like to enact stronger argument. those who agree in the principals of limiting government, somehow a social darwinism, where people are left to fend for themselves completely. the only alternative to this cruel society is a vision of a society of total security and total outcome, results guaranteed by government. fortunately this is not the case. those of us who believe in
limited government, also believe in effective government. a good and popular government is one that respects its limits. one that fulfill its goals and functions well. but look at where we are today, our economy, our debt, crony capitalism. you have big government and big business exchanging favors with one another, while the small business person is left struggling to survive. the last few years have shown us, a truly effective government is impossible without limits. a government that focuses on equalizing the results of our lives, is one that does damage to the american commitment of equal opportunity. if we reclaim our founding timeless principals, we'll have a government that we have faith in, that we are proud of and the question surrounding the size and the proper size of government, will take care of itself. >> congressman, ryan, thank you very much. and congressman frank.
your opening minute. >> yes, we have too much to government and too little government. there is this mistaken view that says we have a fight between the people's money and the government's money. it's all the people's money. the question is, as people, intellige intelligently, we have two sets of needs, that we pursue individually with money for ourselves and families. things are that we have to do together. in all of my years of government, i have never seen a tax cut put out a fire, i have never seen a tax cut build a br up toxic atmospheres. some things where we are inevitably. we are interlock in the economy. we're all subject to the same environment and the same public safety needs. on the other hand, my conservative friends who claim they are for small government are the ones an adult shouldn't
be able to gamble on the internet. we have antonin scalia, in a it because you don't have sexual relations of what he doesn't approve. so, my conservative friends have it backwards. i want there to be regulations so you don't have the kind of manipulation in the financial area that leads to crises. twient be able to clean up the environment. on the other hand as i said, there are overreaches by the conservatives. by the way, they include militarily. i think we have a wonderful military, filled of enabled young people. they can stop bad things from happening. they're not good at making good things happen in foreign society. they want us to rebuilding other societies where we're not really
good at it. yes, we should have more government where we need in an interactive way to protect ourselves against abuszs. but there should be more personal choices. yes, i want more government involved in economic regulation and environmental cleanup and public safety. i want less government what choices to make as an individual. >> you heard both sides open up with their premise. let me ask you, robert, about the distrust and the fear of government, it's at record highs right now, about 64% of americans including 40% democrats feel that a big government is the biggest threat to the future of this country as compared to only 26% thinking that big business is the biggest threat to the future of this country. >> it's not my problem, personally. christiane, i think that this country has never, in our
history, embraced the idea of big government, we don't like to think that we want big government. the idea of big government as a framing device, inevitably sets it up, kind of in favor of the side that doesn't want big government. the issue is really not so much how big the government is, it's what government does. who the government is for. lot of us are worried that government is doing the wrong things. it's not only invading personal space. look at whatle alabama and arizona have done, in regards to allowing police to stop anybody who looks latino on the suspicion that may not be here legally. you mentioned distrust. people distrust government? but how many people trust wall street these days?
how many trust the economic policies? a poll just done on friday, said 77% of americans think that the economy is unfair, the dice are loaded, essentially the game is rigged in favor of the rich. >> you talked about what the government should be doing, let me ask you, one of the big issues that we have been debating all year is election. this election is jobs, the jobs crisis, something like nearly 23 million people who are either unemployed, underemployed or out of the work force, of course during the great depression the government created big programs to get people back to work, why shouldn't they do right now. >> first of all, it didn't work during the depression. the cardinal aim of the new deal was to put the country back to work. we have had a remarkably clear test under the obama
administration. they said, pass the stimulus and by 20 11, the economy would be growing at 4% and unemployment would be 7.1% and falling. i don't fault the president for having his economic projections wrong. this is complicated side. it was once said, the purpose of economic projections is to make astrology to look respectable. i fault the president for thinking that the society is transparent. i don't fault the president for making a slew of horrible investments. i don't faultd him for that. because no expect the political class to be disposing money in the most respective way. >> reporter: one of the most successful things that we have done recently is to keep the american automobile industry alive. whether or not we should inject
into the american automobile industry, as a result of that, funding, we have a thriving american automobile industry today that otherwise would be in collapse. ford motor company not looking for any of that money, ardently argued for money to go to chrysler that is now thriving. judicious intervention of federal funding. as to the stimulus, yes, they overargued. but the fact is, quite clear, things are better than they would have been. now, i understand, it's not a good political slogan to say, things would have been worse without me. you don't win on that. but it is clear, and i say that less politely in other forums, it is clear that the economic intervention that we did earlier in 2009, reduced the damage.
the president underestimated the difficulty we had in the economy. but when you talk about interventions, the intervention into the american automobile industry has been very successful and promoted employment, promoted and kept alive an american automobile industry that would have been badly crippled. >> you argued for the auto bailout. >> to prevent t.a.r.p. from going to the auto companies. we put money aside in an energy bill. we treated a moral hazard now. if you're really big and you drive your company into a ditch, don't worry about, because the federal government might bail you out the next time. it would have been much better if we didn't do all of these things. i would say, when we have deep recessions in these country, we
come out of it quickly. this recession, we're not recovering very well. look at how high our unemployment is. >> do you think the automobile intervention was successful or not. >> i think we should have done a bankruptcy, what we're saying, bond holders you might lose your money. >> as a matter of fact -- we're letting companies fail all the time. >> can i break out of form and agree with paul ryan on one very important issue. i think the wall street bailout, if we had to do it again, certainly, that bailout would have had strings attached. those wall street banks would have been required to help homeowners. limited in terms of lobbying they could do from prevent wall street legislation. would you have voted for that, paul ryan?
>> with those strings? no, i would have put different strings. stick to the financial sector. >> we did vote for the bill. the bill you described is the one we voted for. the bush administration decided it was so important to get the buy-in from the financial industry, they ignored significant pieces. >> we have a question from our audience on financial service and good morning. my question really has to do, what has been put in place since those days to prevent this happening again for consumers and investors to take some comfort from what we have learned in the past few years. >> i will be glad to respond. argue too big to fail to overdoing it. too stingy to bail. economists, the economists did a simulation, if there's another
crisis, we won't be able to bail people out. the federal government gave money to aig. we abolished that. if a company fails, in the first place, it is, if you can't pay its debt, sarah palin was half-right, which for her was a good average. we had death panels in the legislation in which we passed. they were for large financial companies. it's abolished. the federal government can step in and pay some of the debts. it's mandated to recover those debts. >> surely, if you're too big to fail, you're too big to exist. then the country is held hostage to you. >> so, no bank should be no big?
>> what is that threshold, george? break up every bank in america? >> no, i would break up the big ones. >> and to what size? here's the problem, people say that, canada has five banks, they're well regulated. no one told me to what size. the answer is, what we have said this, if you fail that's okay. it's your money as long as it's not the taxpayers' money. if you fail, you're out of business. we may pay some of the debt. >> this is a terrific example of where so-called liberals and conservatives are not on poll raised opposites. i think we should cap the size of big banks. banks are bigger today than before the wall street bailout. i think we should use the antitrust laws to make sure they don't get too big. we are in the habit, all of us,
on being exactly opposite sides. when you look underneath the surface, there's much more in common. >> congressman ryan. >> here's our problem with this approach. we're amplifying too big to fail. if the congress deems you risky, you're going to get bailed out. >> that's not true. >> we're saying, to the big banks, you're going to get the capital that's cheaper. the small banks are going to be left on the outside looking in. we're stacking the deck in favor of the big banks instead than the smaller banks. >> that's total lly inaccurate. >> they can decide how to run these big companies. if things go down, we'll bail them out. i read the bill three times. >> here's what the bill says,
you do have an internationgs na competitive aspect. secondly, what we have said is this, we'll be regulating them. they're in power to make them divest if they think they're too big. finally, if all of that fails, they have to have more capital, more capital for the big banks and the small ones. we then will pick and choose to see what debts we may pay, but the bank is done. the shareholders are wiped out. certain fired. there's no moral hazard. >> you just made our case. on that note, in the next segment -- >> to deal with all of this is the big businesses not the small business. >> reporter: because they're put out of business. >> congressmen, we're going to leave banks for the moment and
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moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. you hired workers the rest of paid to educate. look x you built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea. god bless. keep a big chunk of it. part of the contract, you take a chunk of that and save it for the next kid. >> welcome back. we're going to debate in this segment, that of course was massachusetts senate candidate elizabeth warren, defending the role of government. resolution on the table, there's too much government in my life. hot topic on the campaign trail and on capitol hill. in 2007, the nation's top 1% took home more than taxpayers than the total bolt tom 40%.
at least 1 in 5 americans are living in extreme poverty. so the gap between rich and poor is widening. shouldn't the government do something to address that? >> poverty rates are as high as they have been. rather than trying to bring the people at the top to bottom, we should focus on bringing the bottom to the top. we need to people give income mobility. that means, take the barriers away from allowing people to rise to society, don't have a society where we say this is enough. we're going to cap it and we're going to try to equalize the differences. that new cbo study about income equality. the best thing to reduce inequality is to have more recessions. the focus on our government ought to be, to respect people's
rights so they can make the most of their lives. it's not equalizing people's lives but giving them the same opportunity. >> george, decades now of evidence shows at least in the last decade this upward mobility in this country has stalled, mitch daniel said upward mobility from the bottom is the crux of the problem. should they allow upward mobility? >> big government inevitable xab ra rates the problem of inequality. it's the e servant of the strong. the tax code has been changed 4500 times in the last decade. every one of those times, at the service of a group strong enough and atentative enough to hire a washington lawyer to represent them to gain the tax code. the welfare state exists to
transfer wealth from the working young and retired elderly. the elderly are, according to the cbo study, the net worth of a family of a household on average, household headed by someone age 65 or older is 40 times larger than the net worth of a household of someone 45 or lower. big government is responsive to big muscular interest groups. >> go ahead. >> well, i -- let's just be clear about the facts, right now, the top 1% is claiming in terms of their pay, a larger share of total income. than has been at any time since before the great depression. and their tax rates are lower than they have been in 30 years. you look at that period. george, you said that rich
people, or big corporations have undue influence. yes, i agree with you. the answer is not to shrink government. the answer is to get money out of politics, to make sure that those who are at the top reaches, both individuals and corporations don't have the untoward influence they now have. one final point, in the first three decades after the second world war, we had in this country, much more of an equal distribution of the fruit of economic growth. what happened? in those days, the economy grew faster than it has since. under president dwight d. eisenhower, a moderate tax cut on the top of 91%. i'm not advocating that we go back to 91%. for conservatives to say that we cannot tax the wealthy, when all
of the nation's wealth and income, virtually speaking is at the top. to invest people and education and trainingened everything else we need to invest. >> bob, you're in field of strong men. no one is arguing against government investing in education. >> you guys are. >> no, we're not. >> i'll make a point. i'm not attacking the elderly. i am elderly. i have five years ago, when i turned 65, i got my medicare. i said to my doctor, i got it. he said, we'll send your bills to your children. >> george, you're wrong when all of the tax increases help the wealthy. i voted for and paul voted against for a tax increase under bill clinton that raised a tax
on the people above, it helped us balance the budget. it's right wing that wants to expand the government in form of the military enormously and also claims it's job creating. the only way we create jobs, not with highways and not with environmental cleanup but overseas military bases. point is, the clinton tax increase wasn't for the wealthy. it helped, it raised taxes on the wealthy. it moved more in the direction of equality in the tax code. secondly, as to education, it is this attack on public spending that we have had to defend pell grants against right-wing efforts to cut them. in particular, when i talk about income inequality. both ben bernanke and alan greenspan, haild community colleges. they're largely public funded.
community colleges are suffering from this right-wing attack on government revenues. our ability to give community colleges the money they need for the skills people needed. >> when it comes to taxes the top 1% pay 38% of all federal taxes. but 49% american households don't pay any taxes at all, federal taxes, is that fair? >> if you don't think social security is a tax, in fact the social security tax which is a very significant tax, not only a tax heavily paid by lower income people. if you make $10,000, everything is taxed. if you exclude the social security payroll tax from the calculation, then the more income people -- >> but if the percentage of income that's taxed take into
account and you take social security tax then that figure isn't true. >> i want to go to the audience, we have a question about lobbyists. >> i'm director of the miller center at the university of virginia. my question is, many americans believe that washington is dominated by lobbying groups that represent both the left and the right, i'm curious if in your judgment that's the case? if the government is influenced too much in lobbying? how do you reform it? >> let me ask you, first congressman and then i'll ask you congressman -- >> how does big government get money out of politics? it's the other way around. if the power and the money are going to be here in washington that's where the influence is going to go. what we're doing by having big
government concentrated in a few, that's where the powerful are going to go to influence, by reducing the size and scope of government. by having government living within its limits. >> i'm struck by -- when people talk about limits, you guys keep exempting the military. we spend more on the military then on medicare. we're building bridges in all kind of countries in the rest of the world. money spent on the military disappears from your view. >> do people really do worry about it, it's both parties, how does one get all of that money out of government, out of elections? >> first of all, we have a much stricter campaign finance laws. we may need an amendment to reduce the rulings. that money is speech and
corporations are people. how absurd. the average first amendment rights of people is being trampled on. paul ryan, going back to your point, my concern is not so much with the size of government, it's what government is for. and if you and i can just simply agree to get money out of politics, and reduce government to the size that it works for average working people not for corporate welfare, not for defense contracts, not for agri business, that claim so much of the public, then you and i can make some progress. >> the supreme court threw it out. >> if you want to reduce the role of money in politics, reduce the role of politics in allocating money and opportunity in this society, leave it to the
market, private voluntary tranks actions between individual and you say leave it to the markets. we tried leaving it to the market. watch what happens on wall street? listen to massey energy. we had mine cave-ins. what about job training, roads and bridges? you're going to leave that to market. >> many people think that the crisis in the financial markets, they knew how many americans ought to own houses. they were going to do whatever they needed to do to support banks. >> all right. we're going to go to a break. we'll continue this. upnext, when does uncle sam become big brother, when political decisions challenge individual liberties as "the great american debates" continues.
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welcome back to the great american debates. the resolution on the table there is too much government in my life. right now, we're going to talk about where government should be in terms of individual liberties and privacy. we have a question to my right. >> i'm a preschoolteacher and in a university town, where dangerous driving issen issue. the red light camera surveillance issue wasn't approved. when does safety trump personal -- people feel hate the's an invasion of privacy to be video taped. we use it in many places to catch criminals. >> george? >> i'm worried, actually, by the
mad proliferation of cameras following us through our lives. i seem to me, when does x trump personal liberty? almost never. >> a matter of saving lives? >> i don't want to make safety parallel with, equal to liberty. >> there's a complication driving a car. it implicates others. george, you're going sign on with me and paul on stopping this terrible regulation on the internet. telling adults they can't gamble. here is the right wing is for big government. they want to regulate personal choices. birth pill. they want to regulate the use of bi birth control. who can get married. why heterosexuals want to marry,
if i would marry a man, they would lose interest in their wives. so, in fact, it's the case there's also the case as it is in the military, but a major reason for the expansion in american government, taxation, et cetera, is an overly extended military. but, let's talk about individual liberty. gambling, marijuana, personal sex practices, what people can read, which is the case, the social issues component of the right wing that has been the one in big government. >> so-called liberals and conservatives don't feel all that much differently. for example, when we talk about surveillance, most people don't
want cameras everywhere. most people want to be able to count own their individual freedom. the authorization act that any american could be deemed an enemy combatant and lose all of his or her rights with regards to indefinite suspension. that's not the america we know. >> what about some people see as a paradox? >> big brother-ism. >> the right wants to keep the left out of the board room but in the bedroom. >> the opponents of big brotherism, they're taking all of these palaws to take control. there's a different debate of what we believe the origins of life and things like that. i notice barney, you have a big thing with the defense department. that's the primary function of the federal government. you may not like what they do.
this time last week, i was in afghanistan, they're out there fighting for our liberties and our security. depriving safe havens for terrorists who can come and attack again. >> it goes far beyond it. >> it's a primary function of the founding government. >> you're talking about the construction of society, i'm in favor of the military stopping bad things from happening. but they are far beyond that in the construction of societies and in trying to build so. we're still in iraq. >> we're out of iraq. afghanistan is going to be winding down. >> we're in iraq, building iraq. >> this is something that only government can do. defense is a primary of the government. >> let's go to the audience quickly. >> good morning. this is a great debate. i'm an evangelical christian
minister from virginia. i'm pre an organization, i'm interested in finding common ground. i think it's great discussion. my question is this, there's a great paradox, one is this, to two pieces of economic information came out this week, one that we're a nation of have and have notes. 48% of poverty or working poor. the second point is that we don't believe that as americans. the percentage according to gallup that know that this paradox exists, this great income inequality has fallen, so my question is, isn't this a great american delusion? and an inconvenient truth that we deny at our peril? >> inequality falls when we have less economic growth. that's the paradox. the point we're trying to say as conservatives, what do we do to set the conditions for economic growth so we have upward mobility, so people can rise
through society. we have a dynamic society in the american economy where people move all around in income groups. people at the top don't always stay there. the people at the bottom that stay there. the question is, what are we doing to make it as easy as possible to rise? >> economic growth is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. we now read day care for working mothers is being cut by this assault on taxation. community colleges are being cut, pell grants are being cut. i'm talking about those measures who have allowed people in not great circumstances from moving forward. pell grants for working mother to have day care, it's precisely those things enable those people who are not fully participate in this growth to participate that
are the victims of this. >> you started to ask about civil liberties and civil rights. one of the great and proudest thing this federal government has done, the voting rights act, making sure there's upward mobility for people, not only based on race and religion, based upon disabilities, based upon sexual preferences. if we did not have those laws, this country would not have been as strong as it is now. nor the upward mobility. >> can i get answer on marijuana, george? personal liberty. if someone wants to smoke marijuana who's an document, why do you make him go to jail? >> gambling on the internet. i'm a supporter of the barney frank bill. with regard to marijuana, i need to know whether it's a gateway
to other drugs. >> it's been around for a long time. that's the slippery slope argument. the fact is someone is doing something that's in fact not wrong, then stop the something else. not lock him up for smoking marijuana. >> you're calling it a cop-out. i'm calling it a quest for information. >> how long is it going to last? >> it often does not go in their direction. >> you're on medicare. how much longer are we going to have to wait for you to make up your mind? >> i want to get back to the issue of social mobility. >> good. let's get off of marijuana. >> it's great embarrassment to the conservatives. >> come on. >> paul, this is big government. who can i have sex with?
what can i read? what can i smoke? conservatives intrude on personal liberties there. >> all right, christiane. >> taking that into account, the basic function of the government, this government has in the past, enabled upward mobility. education, health care. >> the basics. >> don't you think where it should be involved. >> three points i should make here. the math doesn't add up. all of these tax increases they're talking about, lets the bush tax expires, it will pay for 8% of the president's planned deficit spending. we're going to run about $9.5 trillion of definites if the president has its way. let's stop subsidizing the wealth thy. the third point is, let's get out of this class division
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for a hot dog cart. my mother said, "well, maybe we ought to buy this hot dog cart and set it up someplace." so my parents went to bank of america. they met with the branch manager and they said, "look, we've got this little hot dog cart, and it's on a really good corner. let's see if we can buy the property." and the branch manager said, "all right, i will take a chance with the two of you." and we've been loyal to bank of america for the last 71 years. it's been a spirited and civil debate. now the teams get one last chance to make their case. we have time for brief closing statements. >> i want to thank barney and robert arguing that government is too small, too modest. i think big government harms prosperity, it harms prosperity by allocating by resources not in terms of efficiency but
efficiency. i think big government harms freedom. the smaller institutions of civil society cannot prosper. and most of all, big government today harms equality. it harms equality because, by concentrating power in washington in big government, it makes itself us is september to believe the rent-seeking by big muscular interest groups. the only people who can come to washington and bend the government to private purposes, get the government out of our lives more and more. you'll find that freedom and the market allocations of wealth and opportunity prevails. jefferson understood, jefferson understood that you can have a government with minimal attention to the absolute essentials that we talked about, we want government to build roads and defend the shores, we want the government to deliver the mails, after it does the essentials, understand what
ronald reagan did. less government, under reagan, respect for government. something we all want. respect for government. rose as government's role declined. >> robert reich? >> thank you. the market is working beautifully. i think if i can summarize what my debating partner and i have been saying, the issue isn't how large government should be but who the government should be. so many americans today are worried that the game is rigged the dice is loaded in favor of the big corporations. indeed what george, what you have said and paul ryan, yes, there is too much crony capitalism, too much big corporation and the rich and wall street. but, you seem to believe if you got rid of government, then
somehow, individuals would not be imperilled by those same forces. they would be. big government is a can nard. i spent half of my life in government. do i look like big government to you? let's get serious about what we're talking about. and let's make sure that we understand we're live manager a society where people care about jobs, they care about wages, they can't get ahead because so much wealth and income are at the top and taxes are not being paid at the top to finance education, and healthy care and infrastructure. upward mobility is being slowed. because of that inequality and that inability of us to actually have the effect, we the people, not we the corporations, not we wall street, not we the rich want to have. >> robert, thank you very much.
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and that's our program this week. our thanks to the miller center at the university of virginia for partnering with us on the great american debates. thank you to the museum for hosting us. send your comments on twitter, facebook and yahoo! at abcnews.com/thisweek and thank you to our distinguished panel. you can also find more